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Federated Search on Steroids – but Still Broken

Ex Libris vendors showed me Primo while I was at CIL. It workes on top of Metalib and your catalog to function as a search of everything available through the library. Shiny. Probably the flashiest thing they showed was opening a video and a text version of the same title in two side-by-side windows. If it weren’t for one small problem, I’d say I’d seen the future of library discovery systems.

The problem? After 15 or 20 minutes of talking to these vendors, I finally got them to understand the problem of searching subject and generic databases at the same time. Subject databases never index their primary subject, right? So “psychology” would return gazillions of results from catalogs, Academic Search Premier, ProQuest, etc. But it wouldn’t return anything from PsychInfo. That’s a problem.

When I’d finally gotten them to understand what I was saying, they agreed. But here are their answers: create custom views or scopes for each subject (so yes, make students chose their subjects first and then do searches, which still won’t compute if they search for “psychology”), and tell PsychInfo to include “psychology” as a subject term. What? That’s about as likely as catalog vendors moving their products to wiki platforms.

Why doesn’t Metalib or any other federated search system allow us to tag databases and then add those tags to the results that get fed from the database to the search system? That way we could customize for our communities AND get our patrons the most relevant results possible.